Christmas in Winchester will be more magical than ever this year with a national television launch, Santa’s grotto and the iconic Coca Cola Christmas truck joining for the first time the city’s famous ice rink and Christmas market.
This year marks the 10th Cathedral Christmas market and Ice Rink and, in a bid to add more family-centred fun, the Visit Winchester team are hosting their first Father Christmas grotto – based on artwork in the children’s picture book The Night before Christmas by internationally renowned children’s illustrator Christian Birmingham. Children are invited to visit Santa Claus in his cosy grotto in the Tourist Information Centre in the Guildhall on the four Saturdays leading up to Christmas. Pre-bookable tickets are available between 10am and 1.15pm. From 1.15pm – 4.30pm the grotto will be operating on a first-come first-served basis; tickets are purchased on arrival at the Grotto and cannot be sold in advance. Tickets cost £5 per person.
Coca Cola announced that for the first time ever its iconic Christmas Truck and choir will be visiting the city centre on its 45-stop tour of the UK this December. For thousands, the twinkling Coca Cola truck is an essential part of the festive season and the truck will arrive in Winchester High Street on Thursday 17 December, with activities from 12noon – 8pm.
The Visit Winchester team have also revamped www.christmasinwinchester.co.uk as across the district big attractions such as Marwell Zoo, the Watercress Line and Theatre Royal Winchester are staging special events with some businesses advising early ticket purchasing to avoid disappointment. The tourist information centre is hosting the Winchester Charity Christmas Card volunteers for the second year, this time with more hand-painted stands than ever before.
The Council is preparing for the Christmas shopping rush by putting on more Park & Ride services and diverting coaches from the Broadway to Bar End. The advice to shoppers is to book tables in advance for meals and bear in mind that weekdays are generally quieter if hustle and bustle is not for you.
Cllr James Byrnes, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for the Local Economy, said: “Winchester at Christmas is a magical place and with so much going on this year, we are hoping for a perfect Christmas for all. We hope that with a Christmas grotto happening for the first time on Saturdays, and the Coca Cola truck visiting too, this will be an extra fun Christmas for local families and younger people. Our businesses also ask for more to happen in the various zones across the city area so hopefully these events will spread out footfall and support more businesses that rely heavily on the season’s takings.
“It’s a high profile year -the season kicks off in style with the One Show hosting the BID’s Christmas Light Switch On on Tuesday 10 November, and we also have BBC’s Saturday Kitchen filming in the city on the same day. As the season progresses the City Council is building in extra Park and Ride services and diverting coaches to ease pressure on the City Centre.”
Sarah Harfield, Winchester Tourist Information Centre Team Leader, added: “Every year so many visitors to the tourist information centre ask if there is a grotto in the city centre as there is a demand for family-friendly fun. As a result we’ve been working extra hard and managed to convince Father Christmas to visit us in the run up to Christmas. With Coca Cola’s Christmas truck coming to the city and the Winchester Charity Christmas cards now on sale we’re looking forward to a particularly festive season.”